By  on August 27, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department unveiled a broad list of proposals Thursday designed to bolster its trade enforcement efforts.

The list of proposed regulatory and administrative changes seeks to fortify the agency’s administration of trade remedy laws by clarifying and strengthening antidumping and countervailing duty procedures.

The Commerce Department, through the Import Administration, investigates antidumping and countervailing duty claims filed by domestic industries seeking remedies against unfair trade practices. Dumping occurs when goods are sold in the U.S. at below market value, potentially triggering antidumping duties. Countervailing duties are levied in cases where a foreign government is found to be subsidizing an industry, in violation of international trade laws.

One suggested change would adjust the Commerce Department’s calculation of antidumping and countervailing duty rates for imports from nonmarket economies like China and Vietnam to account for export taxes and value-added taxes, which could increase duty rates.

The Commerce Department also proposed increased scrutiny of companies that seek exemption from countrywide trade remedies, tightening the standards under which zero percent duty rates would be permitted.

The proposed changes “cumulatively could help businesses be more competitive internationally,” said Ron Lorentzen, deputy assistant secretary for Import Administration.

Before being instituted, the proposals will go through an open comment period and further review beginning this fall.

The proposals did not address the issue of whether currency manipulation could be considered an unfair subsidy, a question important to the domestic textile industry. Lawmakers have taken up that issue with pending legislation.

Currently, companies can be excused from duty rates by demonstrating that they did not benefit from subsidies or did not dump goods into the U.S. market for a certain period of time. Under the proposed change, firms could still get a zero percent duty rate but they would continue to be subject to the duty order until it expired for the entire country, meaning they would be closely monitored.

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